This weekend I had the horrible realisation that I had become ‘one of them’. As I walked out of the theatre, it suddenly dawned on my that I was a film student who had just gone by himself to watch a foreign language (Ukrainian sign language, actually), independant film at a festival. I sat in the room filled with lots of other film industry/student-y looking types with various trendy hair, shirt and skinny jean combos.
The film I went to see is called The Tribe, or Plemya in Ukrainian. It’s a film about a boy who goes to a boarding school for the deaf. The cool thing about the film is that the entire cast is deaf and the whole film is in sign language. There is no dialogue, dubbing or subtitles. I saw an interview with the lead actress a few months ago which sparked my interest in the film and more recently I had read some reviews. Critics were saying that the power of the narrative transcended the language barrier and even people that didn’t know sign language could follow it. I was curious to find out if that was true, so as soon as I found out it was going to be screened at Bedford Film Festival, I bought a ticket.
Having not read much into the actual plot of the film, I was shocked when I actually started watching it. It’s such a dark film and probably the most shocking film I’ve ever seen. It’s not the most graphic or violent film I’ve ever seen, but I think I was taken by surprise because I wasn’t expecting some of the themes and events that it covers. I did enjoy the film but I can’t help but wonder if I got the same story as the people sitting in the room that could understand sign language. One of the reviews I’d read, the reviewer had said he couldn’t stop thinking about the film afterwards and I’ve found myself doing the same thing. I think not fully knowing what was going on all the time makes you think more about it. There were some scenes where there was a lot of conversation between characters and while I got the gist from their body language. There were a few scenes where two characters were arguing, but I never really knew what they were arguing about. I think I know and the story makes sense with the reason that I got, but I could be completely wrong and it could be a completely different story. I think that’s what’s making me think so much about it afterwards.
The acting was a bit dodgy in places, I feel that the fight scenes let down the rest of the film massively. They just weren’t convincing. Maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing really well choreographed fight scenes in Hollywood films. Despite that and the language novelty, I enjoyed the aesthetic greatly too. There were lots of really long takes using steadicams and despite the obvious tension-building nature of shots like that, technically they are impressive too. I also love the look of the locations used. It was a really run down area and building which gave the entire film a massively post-apocalyptic feel. Combined with that, the cinematography was really nice. MOst of the shots are so nicely composed and you can see that from the trailer. I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in film.